Cardinus has teamed up with Welbot which is an innovative, workplace wellbeing platform designed to improve employee health and wellness in the workplace.
In the first of our series, Welbot provides guidance for organisations on cultivating good mental health at work.
Employers are increasingly aware that supporting their employees’ mental health is a responsibility that reaps diverse rewards. Last year stress, depression and anxiety were responsible for 54% of all working days lost to ill health.
One in five people will take a day off from work due to stress, but 90% of those who do so report a different reason for their absence. This may come as little surprise when you consider the fact that work is the most stressful factor in people’s lives, with 34% percent of people saying their work life is stressful — that’s more than debt and financial problems (30%) or health (17%).
It’s clear that something, or perhaps many things, common in working experience have to change in order to improve workers’ mental health. Poor mental health affects one in four people in the UK and causes more than 70 million missed work days each year.
Employers should pay more attention to wellbeing
Looking after mental health at work will satisfy two goals: rewarding natural empathetic feelings towards our colleagues and improving organisational functioning.
UK line managers are moving in the right direction, with 69% of them reporting that supporting employee wellbeing is a core skill. However, only 13% of UK line managers have received basic mental health training despite 35% expressing interest in basic instruction regarding common mental health conditions.
Obviously, the past few months have brought unexpected challenges to workers, employers and working conditions. Covid-19 pushed half of adults in employment to work from home.
This express transition to remote work upended existing practices and familiar environments, causing uncertainty and anxiety for millions of workers. And now that lockdown restrictions have started to ease, new challenges to mental health at work are emerging: anxiety regarding using public transport to commute, stress caused by finding new childcare arrangements, fear of a second wave of Covid-19 and reluctance to leave now-familiar home working environments all deserve attention from employers.
Guidance for managing mental health at work
Understanding the needs of your employees and the steps needed to address them is the cornerstone of delivering high quality support and assistance. Consider the guidance below to inform your organisational wellbeing choices, priorities and practices.
- Encourage colleagues to be open about mental health. It is vital that your colleagues feel safe disclosing sensitive information and being themselves. Fear of judgement, ostracism and punishment can limit reporting of mental health difficulty at work. Last year, 9% of employees who disclosed mental health issues to their manager reported being disciplined, dismissed or demoted. Make it clear that your organisation is committed to supporting all employees’ mental health, ensuring that your colleagues know how to report issues and seek help.
- Promote physical activity. Regular exercise boosts self-esteem and can help you concentrate, sleep and feel better. You don’t need to dish out weightlifting regimes and mandate marathon participation: 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise five days a week is recommended by experts. Encourage your colleagues to be physically active at work, taking walks during lunch or participating in on-site activities.
- Communicate support effectively and often. Far too often, organisations invest in wellbeing resources that go unused, not because they aren’t wanted or needed, but because they aren’t known. Make sure your wellbeing resources are familiar to all workers and are easily accessible in a discreet manner.
- Reduce uncertainty. Uncertainty is undesirable. Research shows that uncertainty of outcomes is more stressful than certainty of negative outcomes. Try to keep your workers in the loop regarding organisational challenges and changes to working practices. This advice is more relevant than ever given the shifting sands caused by Covid-19.
- Put colleagues in contact with each other. Creating an environment where workers communicate effectively in general supports employee wellbeing. Provide your colleagues with the tools they need to speak to each other, keeping this technology as streamlined as possible. Social isolation can creep in at work, and given the nature of the issue, it doesn’t make a lot of noise or cause obvious disruption. Regular check-ins with line managers and teams, as well as more casual conversations about life outside of work or nothing in particular can mitigate isolation and bring struggles to light before they escalate.
- Support work-life balance. Common symptoms of an unhealthy work-life balance are fatigue, increased infection, difficulty concentrating and heightened stress and irritability. When left unchecked, this imbalance can lead to burn-out, which has been recognised by the WHO as an “occupational phenomenon” in their International Classification of Diseases. Support your workers’ work-life balance by promoting openness about workloads and deadlines, encouraging working smart not long, and implement clear policies about boundaries between work and home life.
- Celebrate and recognise. Employees want their good work to be recognised frequently, authentically and generously. A Gallup survey found that doubling the number of employees who receive recognition for their work on a weekly basis delivers a 24% improvement in quality of work and a 27% reduction in absenteeism for organisations. This demonstrates that looking after your employee and appreciating their contributions is good for your business.
Successful mental health support efforts can help reach and educate all employees and can be incorporated into the everyday workplace environment and culture. Whether employees are in need of acute help, support through a difficult period, or reassurance that their company cares, organisations should have comprehensive mental health and wellbeing plans and resources in place.